Do the Canadian Screen Awards need fixing?

In a word, yes. Although we’re happy that the Canadian television and film industry are celebrated by a week of glitzy events, fan zones and a televised award ceremony, the Canadian Screen Awards are far from perfect.

As Diane, Anthony and I discussed on this week’s podcast, the decision to tape delay Sunday’s broadcast of the big categories is silly and antiquated in the world of social media. We weren’t alone in that belief, or the suggestion that some award categories be trimmed down so that the Screens don’t become, as TV critic Bill Brioux called them, the Needies.

So, how do we fix the Canadian Screen Awards? Will a live broadcast do it? What if we added a red carpet ceremony that was televised in the hour leading up to broadcast? Every award show in the U.S. does it, so why not us? Should the CSAs be moved to another time of year, or at least a couple of weeks away from the Oscars, so as not to send people into awards show overload? Do we go back to having an awards show solely devoted to Canadian TV?

Let’s put on our thinking caps and solve the problem! Send us your suggestions in the Comments section below.


15 thoughts on “Do the Canadian Screen Awards need fixing?”

  1. There are a lot of things to be fixed about the Screenies. First of all, maybe just embrace the name Screenies the way the Academy Awards embraced ‘Oscars’. The CSA’s sound like it is an organization that tests hockey helmets. I’m speaking as a person who has won a Screenie and has written award shows (Geminis, Junos, VH-1 Fashion Awards).

    But before the Screenies can be ‘fixed’ the Canadian Film distribution system needs fixing and I think a lobbying effort there should be the focus of the Academy’s film promotion work. I seek out Canadian films, but living in a suburban area of Canada, which by the way, is where most Canadians live, I very rarely get the opportunity to see a Canadian film on a movie screen. One of the problems is with Cineplex, ironically, a sponsor of the awards. The government in recent years has allowed Cineplex a virtual monopoly on film exhibition as they bought up all their competitors. They hardly ever program a Canadian film, except in some city centres like Toronto and Vancouver, and even then, for a very limited time. When AMC was in Canada, an American company, you actually had a better chance of seeing a Canadian film because they love movies and different kinds of movies. I think Cineplex mostly loves selling snacks and ads on screens. On any given day the 24 screen multi-plex near me will not have a Canadian title- but might have 4 to 6 screens devoted to a single Hollywood release. So, when it came to awards night, I had not seen a single one of the nominated films. And it isn’t because I’m a shut in…I see about 80 movies a year on the big screen. In contrast to the Oscars, I was able to see almost all the nominated films in all the categories. Making more of an effort, thanks to the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, I was even able to see the short films nominated for Oscars. One exception was Whiplash, which only played in the burbs briefly. So what movies during the Screenies ceremony was I to cheer for? What actor and actress had I seen and admired in a movie, that I wanted to see all fancied up and accepting an award? None. And I’m IN SHOW BIZ!

    Which leads me to another point about the awards. The kinds of films being made in Canada don’t always lend themselves to big audiences, which is, I’m sure the excuse Cineplex would use to keep them off their screens. I did manage to see the Corner Gas Movie, Grand Seduction and No Clue, all on the big screen last year in Mississauga and Oakville, which makes me think that Canadian film makers might consider making more comedies instead of angst-ridden dramas. Comedy is a nice niche Canadians can fill. I think it would be challenging for a Canadian producer to make a block buster super hero film with a 100 million dollar budget, but smaller genres like comedy and horror can sneak in there and be popular as well. Consider the above example of Whiplash. It was a terrific film, which I was finally able to see on iTunes. However, while it is an American film, it was like so many Canadian movies, challenging both in subject matter, and in finding an audience. The Screenies, like the Oscars, seem reluctant to nominate comedies, no matter how good they are.

    Then there is the broadcast itself. Several choices there were disturbing. One was describing people by things other than what they are nominated for, which made all the nominated stars seem like amateurs. “She was a law student when she landed this role.” “Larry also fixes cars.” What? Would we say of Meryl Streep, “She worked as a waitress,” while heading to the podium to pick up an Oscar? Of course not. The Screenies should make our stars seem like dedicated artists, not someone who stumbled into the business, and tomorrow is likely to stumble out.

    Another terrible choice was to do huge wide shots of the presenters. Once they walk up to the stage, you should just be in close. What’s the point of having Keifer Sutherland and Julianne Moore there, if you’re going to show them from 100 metres away? There was a similar problem with the graphic packages showing film clips. Great graphic of the theatre, but once the clip starts, please go full screen so we can see it. Maybe people have bigger TVs than me, but still, this business is more about faces and content than it is about sets.

    Then there are the categories that are presented on TV. I went to the industry night of the awards and saw Rick Mercer win several. He’s a very recognizable face and a popular star. Deservedly so. So why wasn’t he on TV, instead of some producer guy I had never heard of, accepting an award for a movie that was impossible to see? I’m not sure the marriage of TV and film awards was a good idea when TV shows that regularly get a million viewers were pushed aside to give exposure to films that maybe a few thousand people had seen, and would be challenged to find the day after the awards.

    As far as the hosting goes, I thought Andrea Martin did a fine job. I didn’t think all her stuff worked, but then that’s the case with any show like this. I liked Neil Patrick Harris the week before as well, but he came in for all kinds of criticism. Darrin Rose hosted the industry night I attended and he did great. He managed to give the awards their due, while still needling the industry with well constructed jokes.

    And of course you above point of having a live show, actually be live. The Oscars does it through all their time zones, and we should too. We live in the age of Twitter, after all. Tape delays are out of date.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. Anybody from the Academy see this?

    1. -Having the show a week or two after the Oscars is questionable timing.
      -The visual direction of the show revealed many odd choices, almost as if the director was not actually paying attention to what was happening at the time.
      -The sweep effect in the choice of winners was a predictable and regrettable result of the Academy reducing the weight of the jury’s votes. Thus the show(s) with the highest profile will generally win their category because the general voters are less informed of the competition than the jury. Smaller less publicized shows that the jury admired have less chance of winning because the general voters have not seen all the nominees.

    2. One reason people haven’t seen the films is because they haven’t necessarily been released yet. They qualify by their premieres in festivals. For instance, when Rebelle was nominated for the Screenies, I don’t think it had been released in Canada yet, even though it had been nominated for an Oscar.

      What’s crazy is that this is a golden age for Canadian film. Canadian films (including a Polish co-pro) have been nominated five times in the past six years for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. During this same time, Sarah Polley’s Away From Her was also nominated for a couple of Oscars. This year’s CSA winner Mommy was the toast of the Cannes film festival and won France’s Cesar award. Internationally, people who care about film are very, very aware of the movies being made here.

      But yes, those people aren’t the same audience that roots for Real Housewives of Vancouver to win a trophy. It’s a very odd mix of categories at the CSA broadcast.

  2. Although I don’t want to take away from the actors, writers, etc. getting their chance to bask in the sun, like so much else in the Canadian biz it sometimes feels like the cart is leading the horse. They want a Hollywood-style televised award ceremony but we still don’t have a Hollywood style successful industry. Canadian TV ratings are probably better than they’ve ever been, but there is still a lack of broad-based recognition (or people will have a favourite show – but never watch the other nominees). And movies are even worse (with even professional film reviewers often admitting they haven’t even heard of many of the nominees). Have the awards, by all means – but is there really any point in televising them for the rest of us at this point? (Honestly I’m not sure how much even people in the biz not directly affected by the nominations even pay attention to them!)
    I remember some years ago an actor (I think it was Gabriel Arcand) remarked in an interview – perhaps slightly facetiously – that instead of having an awards show the academy should just throw a big party (with an open bar!) so that industry folk from coast to coast to coast and French and English could just hang out and get to know each other and shmooze. That, he felt, might be more productive for the industry.
    Maybe instead of a televised award show the hour (or two hours) should be used as a giant infomercial, featuring interviews with the actors, and clips and trailers (trailers that in many cases otherwise will never get a network broadcast). Let’s face it, awards are party just an ad (they claim an Oscar win boosts ticket and DVD sales). I didn’t watch the CSA this year but I’ve seen previous Canadian awards shows where they barely show any clips from the nominated programs or scenes of the actors who are supposedly being nominated for their great performances. The result is you can come away from an award broadcast with no better insight into the programs nominated, nor much of a sense of whether you’d actually have any interest in seeing them!

    1. I agree that the Canadian TV industry is creating some fantastic stuff right now and we should be celebrating it the same way. Gary’s point about the random facts about the nominees is dead-on; it was amateur hour. We need to take this industry seriously and celebrate it that way otherwise there’s no point.
      An awards show is a great way to spotlight the incredible talent in this country to a wide audience. I just say if you’re going to do it, go all in with a red carpet pre-show, a live broadcast and a week surrounding the festivities.

  3. I was disappointed 2 years ago when they amalgamated the 2 awards. I personally think TV should have their own night as well as film. I do love Canadian Screen Week and the opportunity for fans to meet their favourite stars. I would hate for this industry to become Hollywoodized. We have our own culture but we are still very much in infancy and are still finding our way or ‘voice’. We do need much more support to get our films ‘out there and seen’.

  4. What irritates me about the tape delay isn’t that it exists. It’s that the problem existed in 2013, and I believe existed in the Gemini/Genie Awards days. The private program services schedule a scripted show like The Flash so it only airs in the Eastern and Pacific time zones “live”; that’s not a perfect solution, but it works.

    If the CSAs air in Toronto every year, it makes sense to air the ceremony live for the Eastern time zone, as that’s a major social media driver. I think there should be some ancillary programming to promote Canadian Screen Week and the CSAs. The Movie Network’s In Studio was folded into Canadian Screen Week; you could air that on CBC the Thursday before the broadcast gala, as that night is just The Nature of Things and Doc Zone. The big problem is consolidation of two failing awards ceremonies to create one modestly successful one, and I’m not sure what the solution is for that.

  5. I definitely think we need to get away from calling the awards the CSAs. I had to chuckle at the above commenter who said it sounds like a hockey helmet certifier or something cause I pictured the exact same thing. I think a big problem the show has is timing, as in it should take place before the American awards season. I think the perfect time for the awards would be in mid-December during the big tv winter hiatus. And I like the idea of having a televised red carpet event before the awards take place.

    1. Oh, and I would like to see a two-night televised event with Film on one night and TV on the other.

  6. I think the awards should be pushed off a month or two so the actors can show up on the red carpet without winter coats. And is orphan black produced by BBC America, if thats true then I don’t feel its truely canadian.

    1. It’s produced mostly by Bell – it’s as Canadian as Flashpoint, Murdoch etc which have foreign partners but Canadian control.

  7. I don’t want to come off as negative, but no one outside the industry will ever care about this award show.

      1. Even the Oscars are barely about the awards. It seems to me that they are more about celebrities, red carpet fashion and the “water cooler moments”. If Canadians aren’t embracing these television shows or films (or stars) to begin with, why would they embrace an award show dedicated to them?

        Again, I hate being negative but I see this as the unfortunate reality of the industry. I love Canada and the incredible talent that exists in this country and truly do wish they would work.

  8. The CSAs have been getting tweaked/fixed since their rebranding in 2013, so the question “Do the Canadian Screen Awards need fixing?” seems premature. We could have some some patience with the new paint colour.
    I am a member and a nominee, and I thought there was nothing wrong with the former paradigm of the Gémeaux / Gemini / Genie awards trinity. But change is inevatible and this year was enjoyable to watch, and I hope they stay on this track.
    I do agree the visual direction was average; somebody had a bad day. But the balance of content was the best of the three years in my opinion. The focus was on presenting the awards; Andrea Martin was the face to keep it all going, and provide a little entertainment along the way.
    I would like to see it go live eventually, but the delay doesn’t bother me (perhaps a future Vancouver 5pm EST ceremony could be in the cards). And I like the fact that it doesn’t seem that the time police have favourites; every winner gets played-off after x seconds, whether the category is Lead Actress or Makeup.
    The fact that the nominated films have trouble being seen is another topic (it happens frequently with The Academy Awards as well). As a member I look forward to January and February of every year when I sit down and watch any nominees that I haven’t seen yet before I vote. And the voting-weight change didn’t bother me. I objectively agreed with all the film winners whose categories I voted in. As for what categories should be presented on the broadcast gala, I think it is pretty close. It needs to be what the people want to see, which means more people they know. Actors / celebrities and top shows. Similar to the Golden Globes model.
    The time of year that the awards week happens is spot on. It has to happen in March. We need the time to watch and vote. So why not have it the week after the Oscars? Would we want to have it later and have any separation from the rest of the awards season? I don’t think so. Someone asked me when the Oscars were on and I said “always the week before the Screen Awards”. They answered, “oh, the last week in February then. Thank you”.
    Although I wax nostalgic for the Genies and Geminis, this year was a strong showing for the Screen Awards, and I hope it continues to evolve in the right direction.

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